1 Day at Disneyland Resort Anaheim – with or without kids

by | Last updated Feb 23, 2024 | Live Work Play Travel, USA Live Work Play

See the grand parade during your 1 day at Disneyland Resort.

 

When I was growing up every Sunday night was Disney night. And on this night, after an early dinner, I was allowed a special chocolate to watch Disney on the TV. I’d wait impatiently for it to start to see what we would be seeing that night and when the Disney music began I was glued to the TV screen. 

I grew up watching some of the best Disney cartoons – Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and those pesky wabbits! And now Belle and Elsa! The show would always end with fireworks over the Disney castle, and oh how I dreamt to see it for real one day!

Finally, as a teenager, I made it to Disneyland for real with my family. As does any family on a visit to Los Angeles. Since that initial visit, I have visited Disney California a couple more times. Plus, I’ve been to other Disneyland’s around the world, notably Disneyland Tokyo and Disneyland Paris. I just love it every time, anywhere! 

Since my first visit to Disneyland Anaheim, Disneyland has grown. It is now called Disneyland Resort and is home now to two theme parks (Disneyland Park – the original Disneyland that I went to, and Disney California Adventure Park), three hotels and an entertainment district known as Downtown Disney with shops and restaurants. Wow! 

So how do you fit visiting 2 theme parks, eating and shopping into one day? Well, frankly, you need to be super organised with a Disneyland plan. Or you could increase your visit to a 2 day visit to Disneyland or longer.

If you only have one day to spend at Disneyland with or without kids, I would suggest you visit the original Disneyland Park as it has plenty of things to see and do to keep you occupied for a full day – but that is up to you! But people short of time often purchase a park hopper ticket that allows them to move between the two parks. More on that later in this post.

Now Disneyland Resort, as just explained is very big with plenty to see and do. The way to make the most of your Disneyland day is to plan it. In this Disneyland guide, I will explain how you can spend a day at Disneyland Resort, with or without kids in this Disneyland planner. I will cover the lands, rides, where to eat and how to get to Disneyland plus, where to stay near to Disneyland Resort to maximise your time. 

I hope you enjoy your 1 day at Disneyland Resort Anaheim. I’m sure you will with some planning, tips from this guide and pixie dust as much as I did and do.

My Best Disneyland Anaheim Tips for Making the Most of Your 1 Day in Disneyland, particularly if it’s your first time at Disneyland.

* Get a map of the parks – know where things are and make a beeline for them.
* Stay at Disneyland Resort Hotel (or a hotel close by) and enter the park half an hour earlier than everyone else.

What is Disneyland Resort in Anaheim?

 

Disneyland was the brainchild of Walt Disney. And who is Walt Disney you ask? Well he was a cartoonist who created the likes of Mickey Mouse. He had a dream to create a tourist attraction to compliment his cartoon studio. It is said he got the concept by watching his daughters ride on a merry-go-round in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. While watching them he came up with the idea of a place where children and adults could have fun together. The original idea for Disneyland was to be a small play park with themed areas based on many of the cartoon characters.

 

When was Disneyland Opened?

 

Disneyland in Anaheim, California was the first ever Disneyland and was opened in 1955 with this dedication:

‘To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world’. Walt Disney, July 17, 1955.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue

 

Organise your Disneyland trip

 

To help organise and navigate Disneyland consider the following before purchasing your ticket.

To spend the best day ever at Disneyland, here’s the process I suggest you follow to efficiently plan a Disneyland trip.

  • Know what lands, rides and entertainment are in Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park and who they best suit.
  • Have a map showing where the lands and rides are.
  • Use the Genie Pass to book your rides you want to speed up the queue.
  • Know where to eat.
  • Stay in accommodation close to Disneyland resort Anaheim to maximise your time during your Disneyland itinerary.

 

How Long Should You Spend at Disneyland

 

Many international tourists only have one day at Disneyland, and yes, you can see a lot, as long as you are very organised and plan your Disney visit in advance. If you are able, two days at Disneyland Resort would be ideal. That way you can visit both Disney Park and Disney California Adventure Park comfortably. But if 1 day at Disneyland Resort is all you have, then one day it is!

 

Where is Disneyland? And how to get there?

 

Disneyland is a 160-acre (75 ha) site found in Anaheim, California which is roughly 26 miles (41 km) from Los Angeles. You can get to Disneyland by car, bus or train however, I stayed at Disneyland Hotel so I could walk to the parks to maximise my time I had to spend at Disneyland. I did this because, not being a local, it was going to take almost 2 hours to get there by public transport and I didn’t want to get up really early with jet lag and all!

 

Where to Stay near Disneyland

 

Staying at a hotel close to Disneyland Resort will help you benefit to get to the theme parks for opening time without having to spend a couple of hours travelling beforehand. This will help keep your stamina for the day. You can also utilise early entry. Disney has 3 Disneyland hotels, all Disney themed nearby. What a buzz to totally immerse yourself with all things Disney when staying at one of these hotels.

  • Disneyland Hotel – an easy walk to Disneyland or catch the monorail.
  • Disneyland’s Grand Californian – has its own entrance via the Hotel’s entry gate to the park.
  • Disney’s Pixar Hotel – guests use a walkway across the street from the hotel to enter the theme park.

 

However, there are plenty of hotels nearby Disneyland Resort Anaheim. Click here to get pricing and availability to book your stay.

 

When is the Best Time to Visit Disneyland?

 

Anytime is a good time to visit Disneyland as it is open all year round. And it is often crowded every day. But it is especially crowded, with long waiting times for rides during the summer months, on weekends and during school holidays. I have been in May and November and it was crowded both times – and I didn’t have to wait too long to get on a ride.

You may want to take into account for your 1 day at Disneyland plans that Los Angeles is very hot during the summer months. Walking around Disneyland in the heat can be exhausting and can dampen your enthusiasm. But there are plenty of places you can go into to enjoy the air conditioning.

 

First time to Disneyland? – Plan an Amazing 1 Day at Disneyland Resort Day

Disneyland Castle.

Disneyland Castle

 

Planning a Disneyland trip is essential if this is your first visit to Disneyland.

 

Prep Before Your Day in Disneyland

 

Before you even get to the park, you have your work cut out for. Probably not something you want to hear if you are on holiday in Los Angeles, but the more you prep, the better your first time at Disneyland day will be. Now you considered, the weather, where to stay and how to get there, now it’s time to know what things you can see and do in Disneyland so you can choose what to see and how you will spend your 1 day in Disneyland.

 

What is There to Do at Disneyland?

 

There are many things to do in Disneyland. There are amusement rides, shops, themed lands, restaurants and street food stalls. You will most likely want to choose the appropriate lands and rides.

If you visit the official Disneyland website, you can filter lists of the lands and rides to appropriate age level. This will help you decide what to see and do in Disneyland if you are visiting Disneyland with kids of different ages. Also, there are height restrictions on some rides, so you can check that out also. The filters also advise if the ride is long, short, slow, fast or loud.

So consider who you are visiting the park with. A day in Disneyland with kids can be a much different day with adults. Only you know whether you will need to slow down while someone has a sleep in their pram or not!

The ages of those you are visiting with can influence where you will go in the park and what rides you will go on – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. So riding on Dumbo may not be a priority of your teens. And your young kids may not want to go on the big thrill rides like Indiana Jones and Space Mountain.

My biggest tip is to priorities your Disneyland day with things you want to see and do but also keep it flexible, as it is easy while walking around that something else will grab your attention.

 

The Lands and Rides

 

Disneyland currently has 54 lands and rides while California Adventure has 34. Here is a current list for both. Definitely visit the official website for more information on each land and ride.

 

Disneyland Park

Main Street, USA – Disneyland Railroad, Great Moments with Mr Lincoln, The Disney Gallery, Main Street Vehicles, Main Street Cinema.

 

Main Street Disneyland Park Anaheim.

Main Street, Disneyland Park

 

Adventureland – Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye, Adventureland Treehouse.
New Orleans Square – Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Disneyland Railroad.
Critter Country – Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (opening in 2024).
Frontierland – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Mark Twain Riverboat, Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition, Pirate’s Lair on Tom Sayer Island, Sailing Ship Columbia.
Mickey’s Toontown – Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Disneyland Railroad, Mickey’s House and Meet Mickey, Minnie’s House, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Chip ’n’ Dale’s GADGETcoaster, CenTOONial Park, Goofy’s How-To-Play Yard, Donald’s Duck Pond.
Fantasyland – Fantasyland Theatre, It’s a Small World, Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Pixie Hollow, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Casey Jr. Circus Train, Alice in Wonderland, Matterhorn Bobsleds, King Arthur Carrousel, Mad Tea Party, Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough.
Tomorrowland – Astro Orbiter, Autopia, Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Space Mountain, Disneyland Monorail, Disneyland Railroad, Finding Remo Submarine Voyage, Star Wars Launch Bay.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

 

California Adventure Park

Buena Vista Street, Hollywood Land (originally Hollywood Pictures Backlot, until it was renamed to Hollywood Land in 2012, Hyperion Theatre, Disney Theatre, Sunset Showcase Theatre.
Disney Animation: Animation Academy, Sorcerer’s Workshop, Turtle Talk with Crush.
Avengers Campus: Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout, Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure.
Cars Land: Luiai’s Rollickin’ Roadsters, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, Radiator Springs Racers.
Grizzly Peak: Grizzly River Run, Sogrin’ Around the World, Redwood Creek Challenge Trail.
San Fransokyo Square: The Bakery Tour
Pixar Pier: Games of Pixar Pier, Jessie’s Critter Carousel, Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind, Incredicoaster, Pixar Pal-A-Round, Toy Story Midway Mania.
Paradise Gardens Park: Golden Zephyr, Goofy’s Sky School, Jumping’ Jellyfish, The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Silly Symphony Swings, World of Colour.

 

Prioritise Your Disneyland Day

 

Frontier Land Sign at Disneyland Park

Frontier Land

 

So the above is the lands, shows and rides in Disneyland Resort. To help you see and do as many attractions as possible during your 1 day at Disneyland, it is important you plan your day. Yeah, yeah, I’ve said it before, but you will have a better day if you know what you want to see rather than wondering around the parks!

Now to make your park reservations and buy your ticket.

 

Buying Tickets – Costs, Reservations and Extras

 

Gone are the days when you could rock up to the entrance, buy a ticket and you were in. Now you need park reservations and buy your ticket in advance.

Making your reservation and buying your ticket is very easy. Simply follow the procedure on the Disney website to make your reservation and buy your ticket/s. Click here 

  1. Start on this page: select ticket to purchase or select make or modify ticket (if you already have a ticket).
  2. Select Ticket, number of days, number of tickets and which park. You can visit one park only or choose park hopper.
  3. Choose the day and select the park.
  4. Add Genie and Parking.
  5. Taken to your cart to check what you are purchasing, then purchase after creating an account.
  6. Voila – you have a ticket.

 

To Genie, Genie+ or Not to Genie+

Genie service is the free in-app planner that helps you plan your Disneyland day.

Genie+ on the other hand is a paid reservation system for accessing shorter queues known as Lightning Lanes. So while in the Lightning Lane, if you pay for the service, you pay for shorter waits. If you are visiting Disneyland on the weekend, when it is busiest or there is a ride you are desperate to be on, paying to shorten you wait time can help you maximise your time, so you don’t miss out on seeing and doing everything you want to see and do in Disneyland. Particularly, when you only have a day to spend in Disneyland. Now you can only make a reservation when you enter the park. If you are on the fence about adding Genie+ to your ticket price, you can add it on the day you visit.

Genie+ Attractions at Disneyland

  • Autopia
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Indiana Jones Adventure
  • “it’s a small world”
  • Matterhorn Bobsled
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Star Tours: The Adventure Continues
  • Individual Lightning Lane: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Mckey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway & Radiator Springs Racers – these have lightning lanes of their own that you have to pay for.

 

Disneyland App

Download the Disneyland App. Once you have your ticket and all the extras you’ve opted for, add it, and everyone’s ticket you are travelling with to the Disneyland App. The app lets you scan your tickets, allows you to make Genie+ reservations, input your parking space, mobile order food and make dining reservations. You can also see the day’s schedule for shows and ride wait times.

If travelling in a group to Disneyland, it’s wise to let everyone in the group have their own ticket on their phone in the app. That way, if you get separated, everyone still has their own tickets. And they could have their own Genie+ if they want, or allocate one person to book all the Genie+ extras on the day.

 

The Dumbo Ride on 1 Day in Disneyland.

Little kids visiting Disneyland may want to ride on Dumbo ride

 

Dining Reservations

 

The last thing to do is plan and order your dining.  As dining options can book up very quickly, reservations can be made 60 days in advance. So if you want to eat in Olga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge or the Blue Bayou restaurant inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, I suggest you book these as soon as you can.

There are plenty of quick service spots in the park which don’t need a reservation, so there are plenty of dining options. You could have pizza at Alien Pizza in Tomorrowland. What about meat skewers and veggie kababs at the Bengal Barbecue to name a couple

If you don’t want to buy food at the park you can bring in your own snacks and food.  You will need to inform the security cast member that you have it when you arrive.

 

1 Day at Disneyland – The Big Day in Disneyland

 

Rope Dropping to Close

 

The big day to Disneyland has arrived. It is best to accomplish all you want to see and do in Disneyland by being there from open to close. Being at the park for opening is called rope dropping. The name came from that you can enter the park before park opening (usually 15 minutes before time) but only to a certain part of the park which is roped off. At the official park opening time, the rope ‘drops’ and you are then free to explore the entire park.

To get into Disneyland for rope drop, it is wise to be at the park some 45 minutes before the park opens. This is because you may need to park, go through security and make your way to the park entrance – this can take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. If you stay at Disneyland Resort – they let you in 30 minutes before rope drop, plus it is in walking distance.

And you can leave the park anytime however, try to stay until the park closes to get maximum fun from the park and get your money’s worth during your one day in Disneyland. However, check the closing time of some of the rides, as they close before the park. Mostly because if there are long queues for the ride, they try to get those onto the ride before the park closes.

 

Disneyland in One Day itinerary

 

Submarine ride Disneyland Park.

Submarine ride

 

  • Have breakfast before you arrive to give it time to go down before you go on any rides.
  • Arrive and go through entry procedures. Don’t forget, if driving, input your parking spot in the Disneyland app to help you remember where you parked.
  • Once inside, appoint a reservation master and reserve your line jumping through Genie+
  • During the morning go on a couple of rides and visit a couple of lands.
  • Have lunch.
  • More rides and lands.
  • See the Grand Parade.
  • Have dinner.
  • See the fireworks.
  • Lastly, at park close, catch the Disneyland Railroad to the exit and shop at Downtown Disney District as this area stays open later than the park.

 

What to Bring for Your Day in Disneyland

 

It would be nice to be hands and bag-free on your trip to Disneyland but there are things you will need to bring, particularly if you are visiting Disneyland Resort with kids. Kids seem to need more stuff when you go out.

  • Phone or camera to take photos
  • Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and hand sanitiser
  • Reusable water bottle and snacks
  • Sense of fun, excitement and a little pixie dust.

 

Are You Ready to Plan and Execute 1 day at Disneyland Resort?

 

I’m sure you’re now ready to escape to the happiest place on earth! Right! Disneyland Resort Anaheim, here we come!

 

More America:
1 month USA Road Trip
How to Spend 5 Days in Los Angeles

 

Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Frontierland and Disney Castle is what you will see 1 day at Disneyland Resort Anaheim.

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Sharyn McCullum Travel Writer and Founder Of Live Work Play Travel, Work Abroad, Work Online, Travel Blog Enjoying At Beer At The Coldstream Brewery In The Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Sharyn McCullum – Travel Writer / Blogger, Remote On-line Worker, sometime Digital Nomad and Travel, Live and Work Abroad Expert. Is a chocoholic, coffee connoisseur and lover of ’80s music. Been travelling all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. Lived in London 4 years on a working holiday. Has holidayed in Hawaii over 15 times and currently calls Melbourne, Australia home. Is inspiring others to live work play travel around the world with this blog. Read more about Sharyn here.

7 Comments

  1. Lisa Bundesen

    I love Disneyland. Have been twice, once with hubby and once by myself when I was in the US for work. It is such a fun place. Great guide and definitely need that little bit of pixie dust!

    Reply
  2. Sonia

    We only had half a day in Disneyland on our one visit. It looks like there is so much more that we missed.

    Reply
  3. Terri

    I haven’t been to Disneyland since I was a kid! But this is definitely an iconic venue if you visit California.

    Reply
  4. Brittney Naylor

    We spent a half day at Disneyland a few years ago. It was honestly amazing how much we could do in such little time compared to Disney World. Hope to visit again next year and will definitely use some of your info!

    Reply
  5. kmf

    I remember the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights growing up. These are great tips on how to enjoy one day at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. It’s such a magical place!

    Reply
  6. Josy A

    It really has grown massive over the years hasn’t it!? I feel like you need the app and a good plan to navigate the resort now! It’s really cool to see your older photos – it looks a little less busy than nowadays!!

    Reply
  7. Jaqueline

    Went to California last summer but unfortunately we didn‘t make it to Disney… definitely wanna go next time around though! Beautiful guide

    Reply

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